Eight critically endangered black rhinos have died in Kenya while being transported by the state wildlife service between two national parks, Tourism Minister Najib Balala said on Friday in a statement.
“Disciplinary action will definitely be taken” if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff, the wildlife ministry said.
The rhinos, who are part of a critically endangered species, died at Tsavo East National Park.
n initial investigation by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) showed the rhinos died of salt poisoning after drinking water at their new habitat, the statement said, adding that transports of rhinos are being stopped.
The rhinos were among 14 KWS began moving last month from the capital Nairobi to Tsavo East.
Kenya had a rhino population of 1,258 in 2017 of which 745 are black rhinos, 510 are southern white rhinos and three were northern white rhinos, having grown from less than 400 rhinos in the 1980s. The white rhino is a near threatened species.
According to WWF, black rhino populations declined dramatically in the 20th century, mostly at the hands of European hunters and settlers. Between 1960 and 1995 numbers dropped by 98 percent, to fewer than 2,500.
Since then the species has rebounded, although it remains extremely threatened. In addition to poaching the animals also face habitat loss.
African Parks, a Johannesburg-based conservation group, said earlier this year that there are fewer than 25,000 rhinos in the African wild, of which about 20 percent are black rhinos and the rest white rhinos.
In another major setback for conservation, the last remaining male northern white rhino on the planet died in March in Kenya, leaving conservationists struggling to save that sub-species using in vitro fertilization.